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BOOK LIST:

ABC (Arroyo Book Club) Picks - UPDATED

Updated: July 2, 2014

This eclectic collection of fiction and non-fiction titles was selected by members of the Arroyo Book Club, a reading group at the Arroyo Seco branch library.


by Mann, Charles C.
Call Number: 970.1 M281

What was America like before Columbus?  In this book Mann explores that question surveying the current state of archeology to paint a picture different from the one you read in your school history book.  A slow but rewarding read.
 


by Herriot, James.
Call Number: 619.092 H567
These memoirs of a country vet are heartwarming, amusing, and ultimately speak of fitting perfectly in your life’s space.

by Chabon, Michael.
 
This book manages to explore the world of comic books, Jewish flight from World War II-era Europe, and the magic of escapism (think Houdini), among other things.

by Gaiman, Neil.
 
This fantasy book explores the evolution of mythical archetypes as they are brought to America and transformed by the land and people that they find here. (Oh yeah, there is also a battle of the old vs. the new and much, much more.)

by Kingsolver, Barbara.
Call Number: 641.09754 K55
Kingsolver and her family take a year to live solely on food they grow themselves or find locally produced. This book follows their experience and speaks strongly to the slow food and locavore philosophies.

by Vowell, Sarah, 1969-
Call Number: 973 V974
This is a travel book with a difference. The author explores sites linked to the assassinations of U.S. presidents, in the process providing you with a ton of information about those events.

by Bloom, Amy, 1953-
 
This novel follows Lillian, an immigrant who comes to New York from Russia in the 1920s, but when she learns that her daughter is still alive, she travels overland to Alaska to find a ship, and hopefully, her daughter.

by Gregory, Philippa.
 
This historical novel takes you into the court of King Henry VIII through the viewpoints of Anne of Cleves, Katharine Howard, and Jane Boleyn.

by Zusak, Markus.
 
The story of a girl in World War II as she is separated from her family, helps her foster family shield a Jew from the Nazis, and becomes a book thief.

by Di?az, Junot, 1968-
 
Details the experiences of Oscar and his family and friends in New Jersey and the Dominican Republic, exposing you to a rich mix of the cultures in both locations.

by Nahai, Gina Barkhordar.
 

Though both of Yaas' Iranian parents are Jewish, her father's upper class family is contemptuous of her mother, who comes from an impoverished community of South Tehran.  But the real challenge to her parents' marriage is her father's love for his beautiful Muslim mistress.  Hoping to spare her daughter the misery she endures, Yaas' mother expects her daughter to excel academically, but something prevents Yaas from grasping the basics of learning.


by Mitchell, David (David Stephen).
 
This is an ambitious novel that tells a dark tale of human nature spanning thousands of years and leaves the reader looking for small ways to make sure they try to either change or rise above that nature.

by Toole, John Kennedy, 1937-1969.
 
This comic novel follows the adventures of the lazy Ignatius and his very put-upon mother as they stumble around the city of New Orleans.

by Haddon, Mark.
 
A dog is murdered and someone has to find out what happened. Christopher, who is autistic, undertakes this task and in the process learns much more.

by Allende, Isabel.
 
This is a sweeping historical novel that follows the adventures of its heroine from her childhood in Chile to the gold fields of California as she searches for her first love.

by Kean, Sam.
Call Number: 546 K24
This book is filled with anecdotes about each and every element of the periodic table. It brings life and excitement to the world of chemistry - even for those whose knowledge of chemistry is slight.

by Coetzee, J. M., 1940-
 

This grim book explores the lives of a man and his daughter and the myriad meanings of disgrace in South Africa. It is a challenging book that lovers of literature will find rewarding.


by Fforde, Jasper.
 
An adventure which alters the fate of the book Jane Eyre takes place in two worlds, one real and one (in some sense) meta.

by Ferraris, Zoe?.
 
The Saudi Arabian setting is what makes this mystery about the disappearance of a teenager stand out. Immerse yourself in the experience of day-to-day life in that country while enjoying a decently depicted mystery.

by Dolnick, Edward, 1952-
Call Number: 759 D665
This book follows a forgery plot undertaken during World War II. Along the way, you will learn about Vermeer, the Nazi looting of Europe, the forger Han van Meegeren, and a host of other topics.

by Levitt, Steven D.
Call Number: 330.1915 L666
This book provides a light, breezy look at the impact an economic analysis can have on topics that have nothing, at first glance, to do with economics.

by Sobel, Dava.
Call Number: 520.92 G158So 2000
This is a fascinating biography of Galileo's daughter, Suor Maria Celeste that exposes you to both the life of a 17th century nun and the father of modern science.

by Larsson, Stieg, 1954-2004.
 
Spend a vicarious year in Sweden, explore city & country life, meet ordinary Swedes as well as villains, and, by the way, see a number of crimes solved or revenged in this exciting mystery.

by Roy, Arundhati.
 
This novel is a stylistically challenging Booker Prize Winner that depicts a series of events in a family in India. It is reminiscent of Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury.

by Diamond, Jared M.
Call Number: 301 D537 2005
This book explores why some societies succeed and some do not.

by Stockett, Kathryn.
 
This novel takes a look at the lives of a group of white women and their black employees in Georgia at the dawn of the civil rights movement.

by Preston, Richard, 1954-
Call Number: 614.57 P939 1995
This book explores the discovery and spread of the Ebola and Marburg viruses while highlighting an incident that occurred in Virginia. It leaves you maybe too informed about the dangers of these diseases breaking out of their isolated environments.

by Markham, Beryl.
Call Number: 92 M3448-1
In this memoir Markham regales you with vignettes from her life. These engaging tales range from her girlhood in colonial Africa to her experiences as a horse trainer and aviatrix.

by Skloot, Rebecca, 1972-
Call Number: 610.71 S628
Explore issues of bioethics, racism, poverty, science, and faith in this investigation into the origins of a line of cells that has and continues to be instrumental to biological and medical research.

by Pollan, Michael.
Call Number: 641 P771-1
This exploration of modern food production provides you with a picture of all that is wrong with it and some suggestions about what you might do to make things rosier for yourself. As Pollan says, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."

by Larson, Erik.
Call Number: 92 D639La
This book provides a close-up exploration of Hitler’s rise to power through the eyes of the American Ambassador to Germany and his daughter.

by Von Tunzelmann, Alex, 1977-
Call Number: 954.04 V948
Learn about the origins of modern India and Pakistan in this book that looks at the withdrawal of the British from India and the politics of its partition.

by Twain, Mark, 1835-1910.
Call Number: 817 T969 1990
This is the original travelogue. Twain explores Europe & the Holy Land, bringing his trademark sarcasm and quick wit to the task. A very long, but nevertheless enjoyable, read.

by Krakauer, Jon.
Call Number: 796.012 K89-1
This book details the calamitous 1996 climbing season on Mt. Everest.

by Tan, Amy.
 
This book follows four immigrant Chinese mothers and their American born daughters in a series of vignettes that explore the impact of their life experiences on their familial relations.

by Kingsolver, Barbara.
 
This book follows William Shepherd, a man with a Mexican mother and an American father, as he experiences key events of the early 20th century in Mexico and in the United States. The roster of secondary characters includes Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, Leon Trotsky, to name a few, and you learn a lot you didn't know about that period in history.

by Brook, Vincent, 1946-
Call Number: 979.41 L881Bro
This book takes a look at local Los Angeles history through the lens of the movies. It provides a plethora of interesting details about LA in days gone by.

by Perrotta, Tom, 1961-
 
A somewhat different version of the “post-apocalyptic” tale (seeing as it’s not clear that an apocalypse has actually occurred), this book follows a number of people recovering from a “left behind”-type event. It is an easy read.

by Martel, Yann.
 
A boy and a tiger (and, initially, some other animals) are shipwrecked together on a small life boat and somehow survive for almost a year before washing ashore.

by Zimbardo, Philip G.
Call Number: 157.3 Z71-1
This book explores the concept of evil by examining forces that pressure people psychologically and socially. Read it as a sort of vaccination against succumbing to evil yourself.

by Winchester, Simon.
Call Number: 509.2 N374Wi
This biography of Joseph Needham is a vehicle for you to learn all about the thing Needham loved - the history of science in China.

by Frankl, Viktor E. 1905-1997.
Call Number: 150.1925 F831 1992a
This book combines a memoir of Frankl's experience in concentration camps with an introduction to the field of psychology that he founded.

by O'Brian, Patrick, 1914-2000.
Call Number: Ed.a

This richly detailed historical novel explores British naval life in the Napoleonic Era. The first of a 20-volume series, this book introduces the principal characters and paints a fascinating picture.


by Morrison, Toni.
 
This story follows Florens, who is sold away from her mother, Jacob, the man who buys Florens, and the women in his life, and provides a look at all the forces impinging on the lives of women in the late 1600s in America.

by Melville, Herman, 1819-1891.
Call Number: Ed.x

Try the classic tale of obsession and all things whale. It is both interesting and informative and, of course, a requirement if you wish to seem well-read.
 

 


by Kidder, Tracy.
Call Number: 610.92 F235Ki
This biography of humanitarian and doctor Paul Farmer explores his work in Haiti (and elsewhere), in the process exposing you to some of the horrors to be found in the world, as well as to people who do astoundingly good work.

by Child, Julia.
Call Number: 641.092 C536
Explore France and French cooking with Julia Child in this memoir. It will leave you hungry for food and for interesting life experiences of your own.

by Taylor, Jill Bolte, 1959-
Call Number: 616.81 T243

In this book Jill Bolte Taylor tells us the tale of the stroke she suffered when she was thirty-seven-years old, and what she learned from the stroke and the recovery process.  The author presents an interesting reflection on our relation to and with our brains.
 


by Lahiri, Jhumpa.
 

Born in Boston soon after his parents arrive from Calcutta, Gogul Ganguli grows up embracing American ways that are an affront to his family’s Bengali heritage. He even legally changes his given name, which his father had chosen to honor a Russian writer he credits with saving his life.The book is beautifully descriptive, capturing 30 years in brief, relevant snippets.


by McCall Smith, Alexander, 1948-
Call Number: M
This linked set of stories follows Mma Precious Ramotswe as she sets up a detective agency in her native country of Botswana and begins solving cases.

by Shute, Nevil, 1899-1960.
Call Number: Ed.a
Looking for a book almost certain to make you cry? You’ve found it.

by Gladwell, Malcolm, 1963-
Call Number: 174 G543
This breezy book explores the qualities that successful people have that help to make them successful.

by Butler, Octavia E.
Call Number: SF Ed.b
In a decaying America society, set in the not-too-distant future, 18-year-old empath Lauren Olamina leads a band of refugees from Southern to Northern California, sustained by belief in their new philosophy, Earthseed.

by Solnit, Rebecca.
Call Number: 361.5 S688
This book explores a number of disasters to look at how the common individual really responds and challenges the belief that we are all savage beneath a thin veneer of civilization. It is long on anecdotes and the author's philosophy but does raise interesting points to ponder.

by Follett, Ken.
 
Don't be put off by the size of this book. It is a compelling character-driven historical novel about a group of cathedral builders in England in the 1100s that will keep you turning pages until the end.

by Nafisi, Azar.
Call Number: 370.92 N146
This book follows a female professor and her students as they are forced to take their class out of the university and into their homes. Despite the social pressures they experience during this time of revolution, they continue to study classics of English literature.

by See, Lisa.
 
Follow the lives of a pair of women in 19th century China, and experience vicariously everything from the agony of foot binding to the atrocity of war.

by Lopez, Steve.
Call Number: 789.14 A977Lo

This book, which became a movie, began as a series of newspaper articles about a Juilliard-trained, mentally ill homeless man in downtown Los Angeles. It touches on many issues prevalent in modern society from mental illness to homelessness to the power of music, and friendship to the (potential) fate of newspapers in our Internet world.


by Fadiman, Anne, 1953-
Call Number: 610.696 F145
Explore the collision of cultures in this medical history of one Hmong family's experience with their daughter's epilepsy and the American doctors who treat her. Altogether a fascinating read.

by Roach, Mary.
Call Number: 610.71 R628
Have you ever wondered what will happen to your body when you're no longer here? This informative book looks at some of the possibilities in, at times, unnerving detail.

by Wroblewski, David.
 
Reviewers of this book commonly resort to describing it as Hamlet-esque - which may give you some hints as to plot elements. It is set in Wisconsin and follows the story of the mute Edgar as he grows up on a farm that breeds very special dogs.

by Kidder, Tracy.
Call Number: 301.45096757 K46

Here you will find the life story of a man who was born in Burundi, survived the genocide that occurred there, came to America where he went from homelessness in NYC to medical school, and eventually returned to Burundi to work on building health clinics. It is a book full of despair that still manages to leave you with some hope at the end.


book cover
by Goodwin, Doris Kearns.
Call Number: 92 L736Goo

Officially, the screenplay for Lincoln is adapted from this very popular work. While it does not deal very much with the battle to adopt the 13th Amendment, you can learn about how Lincoln dealt with his contentious Cabinet. Lincoln needed a strong group to help him through the crisis that awaited him.


by Hurston, Zora Neale.
Call Number: Ed.g
This lyrically written novel follows the life of an African-American woman in Florida through the early part of the 20th century.

by Maḥfūẓ, Najīb, 1911-2006.
Call Number: Ed.b

A recently released prisoner winds up on an ill-fated revenge quest in this stream of consciousness novel by Egyptian Nobel Winner Mahfouz.


by Achebe, Chinua.
Call Number: Ed.c
This book, by an African, is about the life of the Igbo people around the time the British were busy colonizing the region. It provides a interesting, informative look at a people and a place.

by Harding, Paul, 1967-
 
This book has a non-linear, vaguely magical-realist/transcendentalist plot and some incredibly beautiful descriptive language. An interesting book to try to puzzle out.

by Steinbeck, John, 1902-1968.
Call Number: 973.91 S819 2012
Looking for a road trip novel with all the trimmings (and an excellent dog as a bonus)? Give this classic memoir a try.

by Azuela, Mariano, 1873-1952.
Call Number: Ed.a
This book takes a realistic and gritty look at a band of fighters during the Mexican Revolution.

by Wister, Owen, 1860-1938.
Call Number: W Ed.r

This book is the prototype of the western genre. It paints a picture of Wyoming in the age of the cattle rancher and establishes a particularly American mythos.


by Jin, Ha, 1956-
 
This is an intimate look at the relationship between a Chinese army doctor, his wife, and the woman he is in love with.

by Didion, Joan.
Call Number: 810.92 D556
Joan Didion writes about her life in the year following her husband's death, a year that saw her daughter suffer from a serious illness. It is a moving memoir of loss.

by Ackerman, Diane, 1948-
Call Number: 940.53438 A182
This book tells the tale of the Director of the Warsaw Zoo and his wife during World War II as they managed to shelter hundreds of Jews from the Nazis.

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